After the long wait for the first tomato to ripen, do you find yourself smack dab in the middle of a tomato deluge? You may have also grown too many tomatoes or found yourself carried away when purchasing at the farmers’ markets. Here are a few ways to enjoy all of your tomatoes to the maximum.

1. Eat tomatoes fresh or barely cooked.

Mid-summer is too hot for lengthy cooking and little preparation is needed for tomato consumption. Slice or chop some tomatoes and sprinkle on a little salt. Just slightly more work, add a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of fresh or dried herbs and now you have a snack or side dish. Toss on some cheese — feta or bleu — and you can call it a salad. With further preparation, you could enjoy tabbouleh.

2. Preserve for later.

Canning tomatoes is the best place to start if you are interested in learning to can. Anyone with motivation can learn to can by carefully following the guidelines in the Ball Blue Book: Guide to Home Canning, Freezing and Hydration. Most tomatoes and especially heirloom varieties tend to be high in acid and, therefore, resistant to spoilage. A favored method of preserving tomatoes is canning a not-too-thick tomato sauce that can be simmered further in soups or spaghetti sauces in the fall and winter.

Weather too hot for lengthy cooking sessions is also unsuitable for the boiling water of canning, so you might consider freezing a quart or two of sauce. I have also had good luck with freezing tomatoes whole in Ziploc bags or plastic containers to cook later on in the year.

3. Share your bounty.

The best thing about having too many tomatoes or any vegetable is that you can feel generous and share. Neighbors and co-workers seem especially appreciative of receiving extra produce. If you have a lot to share with those in need, be aware that Food Gatherers accepts produce donations.

The days of too many tomatoes pass quickly. What are your favorite ways to enjoy your tomato bounty?

Fresh Marinara Sauce

Yields about 2.5 quarts

Ingredients:

  • 2 yellow onions, peeled and diced (about 2 cups diced)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons dried herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, etc)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 12 cups peeled, seeded and chopped fresh ripe tomatoes (about 5 lbs)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and cook slowly on medium heat until they start to caramelize. They should be evenly brown and soft.

Add the garlic and dried herbs and cook for 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the 1/2 cup of red wine and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and their juice and stir to combine.

Bring to a simmer and cook on low, stirring occasionally for at least 2 hours, or longer depending on the water content of the tomatoes. The sauce should be thick with much of the water evaporated to concentrate the flavor. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Freeze in 2 cup portions for use during the winter.

Tomato and Basil Spread

Makes 1-1/4 cups spread (10 servings).

Ingredients:

  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 -8 ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried basil, crushed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 -2 tablespoons fat-free milk
  • Miniature toasts and/or crackers/cut up vegetables

Directions:

Place chopped tomatoes on a paper towel to remove some of their liquid.

In a medium bowl, stir together tomatoes, cream cheese, basil, garlic and pepper.

Stir in enough of the milk to make mixture of spreading consistency.

Cover and chill for at least 2 hours or up to 4 hours. Serve with crackers and vegetables.

Crunchy Zucchini and Tomato

Broiling these lightly breaded vegetables gives them a crunchy yet tender texture, while keeping them healthy with only 54 calories per serving.

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 4 slices
  • Olive oil
  • 1 large tomato, cut into 4 slices
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese (1 ounce)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Directions:

Preheat broiler. Coat both sides of zucchini and tomato slices with olive oil. Sprinkle zucchini and tomato slices with Italian seasoning and pepper.

Place zucchini slices on the unheated rack of a broiler pan. Broil 4 to 5 inches from the heat about 8 minutes or until crisp-tender, turning once halfway through broiling.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, cheese and garlic.

Place tomato slices on broiler pan next to zucchini slices. Sprinkle tops of vegetable slices with bread crumb mixture. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes more or until topping is golden.

Fresh Tomato-Feta Pizza

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound whole wheat pizza dough
  • 4 plum tomatoes, sliced into thin rounds
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal, for sprinkling on pizza pan
  • 4 ounces feta cheese
  • 1 ounce pitted kalamata olives, halved (1/3 cup)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

Directions:

Let dough stand at room temperature, covered, for 30 minutes.

Arrange tomato slices on a jelly-roll pan lined with paper towels; top with more paper towels. Let stand 30 minutes.

Place a pizza stone or heavy baking sheet in the oven. Preheat oven to 500° F. (keep pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven as it preheats).

Combine tomatoes, 2 tablespoons oil and garlic carefully, so as not to break the tomatoes.

Press dough into a pizza pan sprinkled with cornmeal and pierce dough liberally with a fork.

Place pizza pan on stone and arrange tomato mixture on dough. Crumble cheese and sprinkle over the tomatoes.

Bake at 500° F. for 20 minutes or until the crust is golden and cheese is lightly browned.

Remove from the oven; top with olives and basil. Brush outer crust with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil.

Cut into serving pieces.

Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Clams

4 servings (serving size: about 2 cups pasta with 4 clams

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups chopped tomato (about 4 large)
  • 6 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, divided
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic, divided
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 8 ounces uncooked whole-wheat spaghetti or linguine
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 16 littleneck clams

Directions:

Combine tomatoes, 1/3 cup chives, 1 tablespoon garlic, vinegar, 3/4 teaspoon salt and pepper in a large bowl; let stand 15 minutes. Drain mixture in a colander over a bowl, reserving liquid.

While the tomatoes stand, bring 2 quarts water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta. Cook the pasta for 10 minutes or until al dente and drain.

Heat butter, olive oil and remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic in a large skillet over low heat; cook 3-4 minutes or until tender. Increase the heat to medium-high. Add reserved tomato liquid and bring to a boil and cook 6 minutes.

Add clams; cover and cook 4 minutes or until shells open. Remove clams from the pan to a pasta serving bowl as they open and discard any unopened shells.

Add drained pasta to the pan with the tomato mixture and cook for 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Pour into the serving bowl with the cooked clams and top with the remaining chives.

Red Lentil-Rice Cakes with Fresh Tomato Sauce

6 servings- 12 cakes (serving size: 2 cakes and 1/2 cup sauce)

If you’re starting with leftover cooked rice, use about 1 1/2 cups.

Ingredients:

Sauce:

  • 3 cups finely chopped plum tomato (about 6 tomatoes)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cakes:

  • 5 cups water, divided
  • 1 cup dried small red lentils
  • 1/2 cup uncooked basmati rice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten

Directions:

To prepare sauce, combine the first 5 ingredients; set aside at room temperature.

To prepare cakes:

Bring 4 cups water and lentils to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain. Place lentils in a large bowl.

Combine remaining 1 cup water and rice in the same pan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 18 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Cool 10 minutes. Add rice to lentils.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper, onion, fennel and garlic to the pan; saute 2 minutes or until tender. Cool 10 minutes. Add to the rice mixture.

Add mozzarella cheese and remaining ingredients, stirring until well combined. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Cook cakes in two batches. Spoon rice mixture by 1/3-cupfuls into pan, spreading to form 6 (3-inch) circles; cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned.

Carefully turn cakes over; cook 5 minutes on other side. Remove cakes from the pan.

Repeat procedure with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and remaining rice mixture. Serve with tomato sauce and a green salad.

Oven-Baked Chicken With Fresh Mozzarella & Tomatoes

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 4 (6 ounce) boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • 8 slices fresh tomatoes or more if tomatoes are small
  • 1 cup fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Coat a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

Combine the first 7 ingredients in a shallow dish, stir to mix well.

Dip chicken, one piece at a time, in the beaten egg and dredge in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing to adhere.

Place chicken in the prepared dish.

Bake for 25 minutes.

Turn the oven to Broil.

Top with tomato slices, vinegar and mozzarella cheese.

Broil for an additional 3 to 5 minutes to warm the tomatoes and melt the cheese.

Sprinkle with basil and parsley.

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